Women Observing Lent: Giving Up & Taking On

BlogHer Original Post

Lent is here. It will last 46 days from Ash Wednesday. I know, you are thinking 40 days, right? Wrong. It is really 46, because Sundays do not count in the tally.

I have been floundering around trying to see what I will do for Lent. I want it to be something I can really feel, something that does me good and something that brings me more conscious of my relationship to God. So I think I am giving up some things (list yet to be determined), and every time I crave those items, I will say a prayer for someone.

As I wandered the web seeing what other BlogHers were doing, I came upon any number who were thinking about giving up Facebook and other social media. Apparently social media are now as popular as chocolate!

While Lent was, in the past, more a Catholic observance, a Lenten observance bow is common among many faiths. One national church body has even recommended a Lenten sacrifice that is quite specific -- giving up alcohol. Audrey Barrick in The Christian Post speaks of the national Methodist Church in the US encouraging members to give up alcohol for Lent. An Alcohol Free Lent was inspired by a congregation in Charlotte, N.C. that did it last year after local teens were hospitalized for alcohol poisoning.

... money that would have been used to purchase cocktails, wine or other alcoholic beverages would go to the "spirit fund." That money would be directed to help people who are struggling with alcohol problems. At the end of the period, more than a dozen people signed up for AA and alcohol treatment facilities. And the church gave a check for $25,901 to Hope Haven, an addiction recovery center in downtown Charlotte.

Even people who see themselves outside of church traditions, observe Lent.

Julie, in the Red Room writes of how she has left the Mormon faith, her Catholic husband and Catholicism, but still "LOVES Lent." She will be giving up chocolate this year.

Another contemporary sacrifice, one that was impossible 20 years ago is spoken of by Sara in A Spacious Place. She says:

The past few years I have abstained from sugar, but this year I felt like I needed to do something different. I have decided to “give-up” talking on my cell-phone and to “add” praying for my friends more deliberately. My decision was confirmed by my children’s adamant belief that I will not be able stay off the phone!

But giving-up is not the only way to observe Lent. Taking on a practice is also another way to observe the season.

The Kroc Institute is an amazing place at University of Notre Dame. In the words of their website, "A major academic initiative at the Kroc Institute brings together leading scholars from the world’s monotheistic traditions to address the causes of violence that threaten global security and the progress of civilization.

In the blog 24 Peace Partners, Joan Fallon, Kroc's Communications Director speaks of her family having given up meat for a prior Lent, and how that made them more in touch with the world's resources. This year, she is changing her vow from "giving up" to "taking on":

This year, I am ‘taking on’ peace for Lent. Not inner peace (although that’s nice too) but world peace, the kind the faculty at the Kroc Institute spend their days researching, teaching, and practicing. I’m not a peacebuilder in the courageous ‘on the ground’ sense ...but I do believe that ideas, words and images — the tools of my trade — have power.

Peace is a good idea. I’m taking it on for Lent. Care to join me?

One can even consider taking on a better attitude.

Karen Spears Zacharias in her blog of the same name, speaks of her cynicism as she watches people take on Lent who never have before. But then she adds:

But whenever I tell people I’m going to give up a bad attitude for Lent and from here on out only say good things about others, they look at me with an eyebrow cocked, their head pulled back and chin tucked in.

As if they don’t believe a word I’m saying.

But I found myself most moved by people who experience plenty of sacrifice in their daily lives -- people for whom Lent has a different resonance. Listen to the voices of these two women:

Wife of a Sailor is having a tough Lent. Her dog is very ill and may die; she is waiting for a slow bank to close on her house; and she is unemployed while her husband is soon to be re-deployed. She has decided that she will either give up "stress" or "sanity" for Lent.

In an extremely moving post, Kim at Barefoot and Laughing writes about Lent. She has been living with and blogging about her metastatic melanoma for three years.

Which is why, today is Ash Wednesday and I’m avoiding church like the plague. The last thing I need to hear is, “Remember you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” I know that very well, already. I don’t think I could bear to have ashes smudged on my forehead tonight. We don’t need to practice self-denial. We’re getting message after message, denying us time.

I need to claim Easter now, because I have no idea if I’ll be here on the liturgical date. My hope is in the Resurrection; I’ll be damned if I’m putting that off for six weeks because the church tells me it’s time to. I’m with the Orthodox; why are we ever proscribed from praising? God’s nature does not change because of our season.

What am I doing for Lent? Saying alleluia and living in the moment. Seizing the joys that I can find. Looking for perfect nows. Spending time with friends. Being alive and awake in love... curling up in the words and rhythms and resting in the presence of God. Being hopeful when I can about my body; recognizing that I can live the way my body is right now. Knowing that life and breath are gifts, even when I cough so hard in the morning that I gag getting out of my shower. Taking the time I have to be conscious and whole, to be really where and with whom I am. Walking in the presence of beauty—because it’s easy to find when that’s all you’re looking for.

Being. alive. now.

Some women are using their blogs to post a daily inspiration, or a prayer or a reminder of the world's suffering.

Word Lily says, "I'm observing Lent by posting, each day, a statistic from True Grit: Women Taking On the World, for God’s Sake by Deborah Meroff." her quote for today was :

Sixteen hundred women die every day, some only in their teens, from causes related to childbirth. Of these, 99 percent are in the developing world. While the maternal death rate in Canada is only 1 in 7,300, in Africa it is 1 in 12.

She says that she is doing this for a number of reasons, one of which is "to keep my sin (in this instance: turning a blind eye to this injustice) ever before me."

There are as many ways to observe Lent as there are people to observe it. What have you done in the past? What are you doing this year? What value do you find in Lent?

~~ Contributing Editor, Mata H. also blogs right along at Time's Fool

Recent Posts by Mata H

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